Welcome to Queer Fudanshi. Let’s Talk. In this post, we’re going to talk about Spa Night.
Spa Night is an American indie film written and directed by Andrew Ahn. The story follows a young Korean-American man named David. David struggles with an unstable home as his parents’s financial situation gets worse. It’s when he takes on a part-time job at a male spa that he has to deal with his growing interest in other men.
My Thoughts Before Watching:
I’ve been meaning to watch this film for a few weeks now. I knew of the film’s existance since last year when it went to Sundance, but since the film never reached wide distribution, I was never able to see it.
Then, a couple weeks ago I noticed the film had made it to Netflix (Good for Andrew Ahn). I then put it on my “to watch” list and was happy to finally get around to it.
I hope the story lives up to all the hype I’ve given it.
This is Spa Night.
Warning: The film contains several shots of fully naked men.
Where to Watch:
*May not be available in your country.
Where to Buy:
The Talk (Non-Spoilers):
Spa Night is an artistic film. No one can deny that.
The film feels more like the indie/arts type of movie than a blockbuster because its more about diving into the character’s world than about producing a story for entertainment.
That said, the story does dive into David’s world and makes you invested in all the different facets of it. There’s a lot going on with David’s home life in shambles, his work life bringing out his sexuality, and his difficulty with his studies. And all of that folds nicely into this hour and a half movie.
I say, if you are into LGBGQ media, then you should check out this film at least once. Its up to you whether you really like it though.
The Talk (Spoilers):
Enlightenment Not Entertainment
The presentation of this film reminds me a lot of Blue is the Warmest Color. By that, I mean that Spa Night is very much an indie film/film awards type of movie.
The point of the film isn’t so much to entertain you as it is to enlighten you. It feels more like it’s a character analysis of David and a look into his world than it is about engaging or exciting the viewer. That said, the story works well in that aspect of being an artisty film and David’s situation is worth watching.
Coming Of Age Before Gay
In addition, the fact that the story is more about David in all aspects of his life makes it so that this isn’t a typical gay coming of age story.
The story doesn’t focus on just the fact that David is gay. It isn’t a coming out story and it isn’t only focusing on his sexuality. Now of course, his sexuality is a facet of his life that he’s figuring out during the film, but that’s not all that he’s worrying about.
I think this is a great thing that Andrew Ahn’s writing did. When I was watching I was interested in both the gay storyline and the family storyline. They were mutually exclusive yet equal in importance to both David and the story as a whole. So in my mind this is more a coming of age story with gay aspects than a gay coming of age story.
As for David’s parents, I have mixed emotions about them. Plus, I feel like all three characters had flaws about them, but one of the characters was most flawed.
First, David’s mother Soyoung is hard to talk about because I got the least impression off of her when I watched Spa Night. Often, she was a tool to bounce off others. She acted as David’s worrying mother, as the wife of a emerging alcoholic, the employee of Mrs. Baek.
That said, the scenes with her that left an impression on me was when she was with Mrs. Baek because she put out this docile/subservient aura while in front of the other woman. That, and the last scene with her husband when she lashed out at him. While she was right, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the father.
That said, I liked the father the least. While Soyoung put out a subservient aura at times, at the start of the film Jin put out a dominant vibe. That whole “two hands” thing when David was going to pour the glass for instance. Yes, that’s a custom that David shouldn’t forget, but it came off with too much of a “respect me!” vibe to my liking.
But, I understand Jin’s turmoil. He came to America to provide for his family and suddenly he’s become useless. That has led him to despair and to drinking. But, just because I understand why doesn’t make me accept the action of emotionally checking out on his family. Again, he was my least favorite.
As for David, I was a weird mix of interested and apathetic towards him.
I was interested in his story and the mixture of his home life and his life outside of it (both at USC and at the Spa). But, I also found his timidness boring and sometimes aggravating. I was flipping between those mentalities throughout the film.
For instance, I was invested in him enough to not want him to come onto that older man in the spa, but at the same time I wanted him to take more action in his life like being more active when out with Eddie or yelling out, “I don’t want to go to school.”
But, I can understand some of why he was like that (especially with his worrying mother and overpowering father). All of this made David an interesting yet slightly off main character for my personal tastes.
Lastly, I have to say that I’m sad the ending was the way it was. I just felt like I wanted more of David’s story. That’s a testament to Andrew Ahn’s writing.
But, I also feel like it was unresolved. And certainty it ended on a sad note. David’s parents are fighting, their financial situation is terrible, David lost his virginity to a stranger who didn’t want to kiss him, and he lost his job because he was caught.
Spa Night’s ending certainly gave me that artistic film feeling of the morbidity and uncertainty of life, and I’m still recovering from that.
Over all, I’m happy I saw the film. Like Blue is the Warmest Color, I’m not sure I’ll ever need to see Spa Night again but I’m happy I did once.
The film felt artistic and zapped me into David’s world. It had its good moments and many sad/somber moments, but it was a moment none the less.